Monday, December 24, 2007

And to you Constant Reader I can only say....

Friday, December 21, 2007

Well that's That done then - work is over for 2007!

It's been a tipsy-tarty year for the business so I was nervously watching the clock today till I could leave JUST in case the computer crashed again and we had to start from Year Zero Day One for the fifth time. Luckily there was no such mishap and at 2.30 I practically skipped from the business centre - I don't think I have looked forward to an Xmas break so readily.

Now NUTCRACKER! on Wednesday kick-started the season and this afternoon locked it down. Owen and I went to the WINTER WONDERLAND event at Hyde Park. Now I was expecting it to be in the paddock where they hold the open-air gigs but no... it was on the southern gravel path along past the bandstand so in fact it was just a glorified parade of rides and kiosks and the ice rink dubbed London's largest outdoor one didn't seem to take too long to walk past... but after the initial shock wore off I started to enjoy myself!
As it was already late afternoon we deceided to go up on the large observation wheel to catch the light and also because the queue was quite short. We went round about four times which was nice as it gave us a chance to see the sky growing more pink-purple as dusk set in over Kensington with nice views over the park and The Serpentine which looks lovely from high up!

All in all we spent 3 hours there - eating, drinking, wandering around the crafts stalls in the German-style Christmas fair, picking up and putting down and sometimes buying. I managed to find a little something to top off someone's Xmas present and a nice large-ish ring for my index finger... and Owen? Let's just saw he is now on the Haribo Christmas card list after what he spent at the sweet stall.

He also bought something he will no doubt be blogging about himself
but here is a preview!

The evening was rounded off in grand big-kid stylee by a ride on the Carousel! I haven't been on one in years... it was great! I was on Diane and Owen was on Franky - 2008 should be the year of adults reclaiming the best rides at fairs.

The afternoon had been so entertaining that an evening slow promenade among the Oxford Street shopped-out zombies couldn't annoy me!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Oh very dear... What the good lord of the West End gives with one hand he takes away with the other....

The production of RENT at the Duke of Yorks Theatre is to close two months early after a run of four months. As I blogged when it opened this is the third attempt to inflect this over-hyped musical here.

To quote Thomas Beecham on Wagner RENT has "some wonderful moments but some dreadful half-hours" but hopefully the theatre producers of Britain *might* now get the hint that this show is a non-starter here.

But frighteningly there is a report in the New York Times that a new jukebox musical is likely to appear in London... SIMPLY THE BEST based on the hardly-new story of Tina Turner and her abusive relationship with the currently-dead Ike (which is handy).

"But I saw the film and read the paperback" I hear you cry Constant Reader... but no, the writer (and the person responsible for this has probably never been accused of THAT before) has come up with this:

The musical goes wacky when it shifts to Ancient Egypt…Tina believes she's the reincarnation of Hatshepsut, whose reign from 1479 to 1458 B.C. was prosperous and peaceful. Hatshepsut prevented her evil stepson, Thutmose III (that's Ike), from assuming the throne (though he seized it when she died). The Egyptian queen watches over Tina. When Ike pulls a gun on Tina, Hatshepsut shields her and the gun 'leaps' out of Ike's hand (special effects!)."

The idea of this being on a stage after the recent stillborn delivery of DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN set to Blondie songs is nine miles of wrong road.

After one of those flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants days that seems to be happening all too frequently since we moved to E2 I was totally ready to be taken away from reality for a couple of hours... and luckily Matthew Bourne and his revised production of NUTCRACKER! at Sadler's Wells provided just the right vehicle.

This year has provided me with the opportunity of catching up with Bourne productions I have missed previously what with THE CAR MAN and now this revival of his 1992 reworking of the perennial Tchaikovsky ballet.
I have been a fan of Matthew Bourne since the early 1990s when Andrew invited me along to see DEADLY SERIOUS at the small Place Theatre in Euston and I immediately connected to his witty balletic tribute to Hitchcock. Since then I have seen THE PERCYS OF FITZROVIA, THE INFERNAL GALLOP, HIGHLAND FLING, SWAN LAKE, THE CAR MAN and PLAY WITHOUT WORDS and have enjoyed them all.

His qualities of witty irreverent choreography, strong narrative, excellent company work, individually delightful performances and moments of real pathos are all to be found in NUTCRACKER! allied to his always excellent choice of designers and lighting.

Kerry Biggin was a delightful Clara, the feisty but lovelorn orphan who escapes from a strict orphanage when a toy Nutcracker doll comes to life one magical Christmas night and effects her escape. The giant Nutcracker doll reveals himself to be a sexy man of her dreams and was wonderfully danced by Adam Vincent who also played the title role in THE CAR MAN earlier this year.

Apart from the two leads all the other dancers double up as related characters in Act 1 & 2 - the statuesque Michaela Meazzea was Sugar the spoiled daughter of the orphanage owner then the equally spoiled Princess of Sweetieland who steals the Nutcracker's affections from Clara; Shaun Walters was Sugar's equally horrid brother Fritz then the petulant Prince Bon-Bon while Adam Galbraith and Mami Tomotami were the nasty owner's of the orphanage then appeared as King Sherbert and Queen Candy.

All turned in delightfully characterised performances and among a strong supporting company a special mention to Ashley Bain as the extravagantly sensuous Knickerbocker Glory - all whipped cream hair with a cherry on top! I particularly like how in Sweetieland just being there meant you were liable to be licked by whoever you meet - indeed a frisson went through the audience when the King ran his hand up the Nutcracker's bum then licked his fingers!

The design by Anthony Ward was marvellous - ominous and grey for the orphanage, a lovely icy-blue for the frozen pond then an explosion of colour for Sweetieland - they should give out sunglasses in the interval! Howard Harrison's lighting also was wonderfully effective.

There is a fairly wide-ranging tour of the UK after it finishes it's run in late January so check out the website here - there's a nice video trailer on it - and catch it while you can. NUTCRACKER! is a delicious treat and a lovely way to (possibly) end my 2007 theatre going.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A kinda catch up blog....

On Friday it was payback time. Owen has braved concerts by artists unfamiliar to him with me so it was only fair that I did one for him - bearing in mind the last two like this nearly turned me into a shut-in as the audiences were so vile (Steve Harley, Maximo Park). Yes Constant Reader, Friday found me in Croydon Fairfield Halls to see O's beloved Slade. Well the two original members who still perform as Slade, Dave Hill and Don Powell.

As I blogged back in April after seeing Petula Clark, the Fairfield Halls is a particularly dismal experience for any event. Built in 1962 it's almost like a parallel universe Royal Festival Hall - which is a pretty soulless joint too. Zero atmosphere, zero customer service from the geriatric and jobstart staff, no attempt made to make you engage with the building... it's remarkable it has survived to this day as a live venue.

Noting the pre-publicity that it was a great pre-Christmas party night you can kind of guess the ambiance in the half-filled auditorium - desperate gaiety mixed with a hint of retardation. By arriving late we missed the start of surprise support Atomic Blondie who I must admit I was willing to sit through but as O had tickets in the dead centre of the third row we deceided to sit that one out. Then it was time for Mud II which afforded me more time to soak up the Kremlin-like ambiance of the foyer as a donkey and a length of rope wouldn't have got me into the auditorium for that dog show.Needless to say after more than an hour sat in the morgue-like foyer I was willing to embrace any sign of life so we took our places for the headliners. Now it's always an odd experience to see a band who you are not emotionally connected to but I must say - while maybe not like Granny in MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY who was 'Up and rock 'n' rolling with the rest' - for the whole set I was clapping along to the thunderous whacking of Don Powell's drumming and joining in the choruses of their biggest hits - and we got most of them in a non-stop hurtle through such songs as TAKE ME BAK 'OME, GUDBYE T' JANE, CUZ I LUV YOU and SKWEEZE ME PLEEZE ME. They also did a fine sweeping version of RUN RUN AWAY and nice versions of their terrace ballads FAR FAR AWAY and MY OH MY. The obligatory MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY was played as an encore along with the only one of their songs I ever really liked CUM ON FEEL THE NOIZE.

So contrary to all predictions I enjoyed them. But it is an odd thing to see a band where the focal point is the guitarist - and not the singer, singing songs written by and for an obviously charismatic presence. Sadly the Noddy Holder soundalike is just that - he has a gravelly delivery but that's all - his voice isn't all that. It was peculiar to watch him belting out songs only to step back while Dave Hill did his joint virtuoso playing of guitar & crowd. All very off-kilter. I also was surprised that the audience response wasn't more raucous... maybe they were disappointed they were not as chicken-in-a-basket as the acts that had gone before.

Another curious experience was on Sunday seeing THE SNOWMAN at the Peacock Theatre - again it's a auditorium that doesn't have a particular vibe - in an odd way I always feel I should leave my coat on while sitting in it. Anyways we booked to see this as it was on a ticket deal with Matthew Bourne's production of NUTCRACKER at Sadlers Wells. I have managed to avoid this production for the past TEN Christmases at the Peacock and have skillfully managed to avoid the original tv animated film so was kind of coming to it new.

Within ten minutes I suddenly remembered why I don't go to more family shows... the inevitable white noise of children in a darkened auditorium. Now I am all for introducing kids to theatre at an early age and for them hopefully to be engaged with the imaginative leap needed but couldn't they all be given dummies to suck on? Preferably with Night Nurse in?? My appreciation of the piece was slightly hampered by the simultaneous commentary provided by the precocious girl behind me to her mother/grandmother/aunt/nanny/kidnapper.

"This is where they fly now".... cheers bitch.

It was an amiable way to pass an hour and 50 minutes but ultimately I found it too cutesy. The great things about any kid's story is surely the darkness that lurks within and that I remember I used to love as a kid - honest I was one once. The wicked queen in SNOW WHITE, Maleficent in SLEEPING BEAUTY, the White Witch in THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE (Yes they *are* all diva bitches!) - all genuinely disturbing presences. Here Jack Frost pops up when The Snowman and little James venture to the North Pole and tries to steal The Ice Princess from Father Christmas but is easily trounced. As I had just sat through a needless pas-de-deux between her and The Snowman with as much growing impatience as the kids around me I was actually hoping he would whisk her off somewhere. I guess The Snowman melts in the end which some might say is pretty dark!

So nice stage design by Ruari Murchison and notable performances from Aedan Day (James) and Jodie Blemings (Jack Frost). The choreography was a bit underwhelming.

On July 1st 2006 Owen and I saw Gladys Knight at the Royal Albert Hall. We hung around with the vague hope of seeing her afterwards along with a dwindling group of fans. Despite the protestations of her manager that she had gone we still hung around... as Owen opined, if she was gone what was he still doing there? Eventually he came out and said "If you leave your names with me I will see you will get a signature" so grudgingly we all wrote our details on the proffered sheets of paper.

After nearly a year and a half of admitting to ourselves it was just a ruse to get us to leave the stage door and thinking the pages were chucked in the bin, look what arrived this morning from America - even if it is a printed autograph!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Congratulations to Jim Broadbent, Samantha Morton and Andy Serkis who have all received Golden Globe nominations for their excellent performances in LONGFORD which has also been nominated as Best Film Made For Television.

I saw this back in May and their performances as Lord Longford, Myra Hindley and Ian Brady have stayed with me, particularly Serkis who in three shortish scenes turned in a performance that easily rivaled Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lechter for pure compelling evil.

Other favourites who are up for awards are Jason Isaacs (up against Broadbent) for the confusing thriller THE STATE WITHIN, Sissy Spacek for the tv movie PICTURES OF HOLLIS WOODS, Bill Paxton for tv series BIG LOVE, Christopher Hampton for his masterly screen adaptation of ATONEMENT (sadly no nomination for Vanessa Redgrave but a nod to Saoirse Ronan's unnerving Briony) and Marion Cotillard for her take-no-prisoners performance as Edith Piaf in LA VIE EN ROSE.

SWEENEY TODD has received nominations for Best Film (Comedy/Musical), Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton. I will be able to give my verdict on the film next month/year as I have nabbed tickets for a preview screening at the National Film Theatre.

Speaking of SWEENEY TODD.... feeling you need another stage musical-to-screen next year Constant Reader?

Click here for the new trailer for MAMMA MIA! Check Meryl Streep's vocal on the title song.... sounding good girlfriend. After having seen the show 3 times (twice in London, once in Toronto) I have a strange feeling I might see this... if only for Christine Baranski doing DOES YOUR MOTHER KNOW THAT YOU'RE OUT!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Another Hollywood leading lady tribute... this time Lana Turner.

Famously discovered as a 16 year-old sipping a Coke in a drugstore she worked her way up from small eye-candy roles at MGM to become a popular leading lady during the 40s and 50s. While never a great actress she was effective in roles that hinted at a darkness under her blonde exterior, notably as the insecure actress in "The Bad & The Beautiful", the scheming 'Milady' in "The Three Musketeers" and, in her greatest role, as 'Cora' who inspires lover John Garfield to murder her husband in the classic Film Noir "The Postman Always Rings Twice". The sexual tension between Turner & Garfield still sizzles and easily puts out the damp squib that was the 1980s remake with Nicholson & Lange.

However her screen career had to compete with a private life which was not so private. Eight marriages to seven men and a starring role in one of the biggest Hollywood murder cases of the 1950s. In April 1957 Turner started a relationship with Johnny Stompanato, a smalltime gangster, which quickly turned into an abusive one. A year later while he was attacking Turner in her home one night, her 14 year-old daughter Cheryl stabbed and killed him. The media had a field day with the lurid details and Lana's hysteria in the witness box in the Coroner's Court. A verdict of Justifiable Homicide was passed. Lana's next film was IMITATION OF LIFE in which she played an actress unaware her teenage daughter has a crush on her lover. You guessed.... it was a box office smash, which not only helped her career but her bank account too as she had accepted a Box Office percentage in lieu of a salary.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Tonight Owen and I went to the London Coliseum to see a World AIDS Day benefit concert by the magnificent Barbara Cook which also celebrated her recent 80th birthday. The show was billed BARBARA COOK AND FRIENDS and I worried the guest stars would be attempting songs from Barbara's extensive back catalogue but luckily they didn't. But by and large they mostly made me realise how much I was missing our star.

Out of a mixed bunch the three who stood out as worthy of sharing the stage with her were Daniel Evans - and who would have thought I would ever say that back in the day? - who sang an impassioned and effortless interpretation of Sondheim's "Being Alive" and the delicious Sian Phillips had great fun with Coward's "Bar On The Piccola Marina" and later duetted with John Standing on GIGI's "I Remember It Well" to delightful effect. I had been looking forward to seeing Barbara share the stage with Julia McKenzie but the latter was a no-show.

The others were ok and didn't disgrace themselves. And then there was Elaine Paige.
Now I have never been a fan of ol' Slide-For-The-Note Paige but she was startlingly off. She sang a solo version of "I Know Him So Well" in a short-breathed way which made her not so much slide for notes as do a triple jump at it and still manage to fall short occasionally. I kinda told myself that maybe it was nerves but she then launched into a rendition of "Cry Me A River" which, seen against the effortless artistry of Cook, was frankly laughable. I must admit I admired her in the revival of Pam Gem's PIAF and maybe she was channeling
La Mome during this, only Piaf's histrionics would have come from the heart and not from some actorly "shtick" of singing the last verse/chorus in... a... fake... voice. Miss Paige is 59.

Barbara Cook is 80 and has no such need for such artifice. I first saw her in concert at the Donmar Warehouse in the summer of 1986 and over the years have seen her quite a few times in both large and small venues, both theatres and concert halls. She is never less than magnificent but tonight she really seemed to
hit some new highs. Although her gloriously warm soprano seems naturally given to uptempo and happy songs, she is actually never better than singing sad songs.

The emotional highpoint of her set is usually when she sings a medley of two songs that inform each other, my favourite being "He Was Too Good To Me" and Sondheim's "Losing My Mind". We had two such medleys tonight, both sung to a totally silent and rapt Coliseum audience. The first was a simple, sombre version of "I'm Through With Love" which was complemented by Chaplin's "Smile", not once did she fall for the inherent easy sentiment of the song. Her taste and reading of a lyric are impeccable.

To close the show she paired Maxwell Anderson/Kurt Weill's "Lost In The Stars" (which I had never heard her sing before) with Sondheim's "No More" from INTO THE WOODS. It was an inspired choice, 2 songs of quiet despair sung by characters at their lowest ebb - the first full of doubt, the second retreating from the misery of the world - which could be read as a response to the world we live in now or to a seemingly-unconquerable virus.

A revealing interview 2 years ago with the NY Times revealed a woman who had a troubled childhood and whose successful Broadway career tailed off into alcoholism and depression. It's into these areas she admits she goes to make these songs so painfully intimate.

The night ended however on a marvellous note (literally), perfectly fitting the mood engendered by "Lost In The Clouds"/"No More". Barbara sang with a massed choir "Make Our Garden Grow", the final song in the Leonard Bernstein/Richard Wilbur musical CANDIDE, the show in which she played her first Broadway leading role 51 years ago. The song's lyrics of quiet perseverance were the perfect end to the show.

Among Barbara's many awards is a citation as a Living New York Landmark. How lucky for us that this is one landmark that also has a passport.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I was poking about the bedroom and after moving half a ton of books and cartons full of theatre programmes I discovered I had a chest of drawers - like.. who knew? In the bottom drawer were a ton of old cuttings which Constant Reader if you are very good I will share with you over the coming weeks. What the Hell... you're getting them anyway.

First off, a tribute to a woman who appears to have been before her time Jayne Mansfield. No photo op never knowingly refused, no opportunity to be the trashy centre of attention refused, a life lived for fame which came early and then the 24 hour attempt to hang onto it.
In case you were wondering what that strange high-pitched noise was you have been hearing recently... um that was me.

It looks like Madonna will be touring next year...

*starts looking down the back of the sofa for pennies*

Monday, November 26, 2007

It's official. I'm in mourning. But, Constant Reader, the joy before the pain.

On Saturday night Owen and I had one of the tables overlooking the Jazz Cafe stage to see the Queens of Lovers Rock Janet Kay and Carroll Thompson. After seeing them earlier in the year at the Barbican for the BBC SOUL BRITANNIA concert we thought it would be good to see them in a smaller venue and here they were.

Backed by an excellent band they took turns singing several short sets and as both have sustained careers over 25+ years it was great seeing and hearing them. The nice thing to see was how while one was taking their turn, the other sat to one side behind the backing singers - singing along! Neither appears to have a UK recording contract although Janet has been signed to Sony Japan for a few years so it can't be easy maintaining careers. What they do have are two wonderful voices with great stage presence, a catalogue of swoony love songs and a devoted fan following. Oh and Janet's partner Victor Romero Evans doing a great job selling the promo versions of their new albums!

Carroll sang most of her HOPELESSLY IN LOVE album from 1980, a landmark record which was recently voted by The Guardian as one of the 1,000 Albums To Hear Before You Die. My favourites were included, "Hopelessly In Love", "Yesterday", "I'm So Sorry" and "Mr. Cool". As well as these she also sang some tracks from her latest album MOOD FOR LOVE including a delightful Lovers Rock version of "Breakfast In Bed".

Janet treated us to "Feel No Way", "Lovin' You" (first recorded by her aged 19), "Love You Always", Dennis Brown's version of "Silhouettes" and a great "You've Made Me so Very Happy". Oh and "Silly Games" - and yes she hit the note! She also played the drums for the first verse so we could sing it to her! She also sang a lovely cover of Anita Baker's "Sweet Love" from her last cd LOVIN' YOU... MORE

Afterwards we swung by Victor to buy some cds - and shake his hand - then trooped upstairs again to be ushered into the presence of these two gracious Queens who were very friendly and happy to chat - it was hard to believe they had just come off-stage after playing an hour and a half of solid soulful reggae.

They even showcased a young singer called Wayne Marshall who sang a rather overly-tortured version of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come". Hopefully he will drop the James Brownisms soon and let his fine voice carry the song. Here is a shot of them listening to him.

Janet said they are going to be performing again next February at Hackney Empire so I am already looking forward to seeing them again!

So if I had a wonderful time... why am I in mourning?

When I got back to Owen's I realised I had left my lovely chocolate brown Cressida Bell velvet scarf draped over the back of my chair.

I called the Jazz Cafe today and yes you guessed.... no scarf was handed in.

My lovely scarf... gone forever... *sob*

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Every so often I see a production that reminds me just how powerful true theatre can be.

On Wednesday evening Owen and I saw WAR HORSE at the Olivier Theatre. It has been adapted by Nick Stafford from the 1982 novel by Michael Morpurgo. I didn't feel particularly fired up to see it when it was announced as I didn't know the book but after it opened to out-and-out rave reviews we managed to get tickets in what is now a sell-out production. I was mesmerised from the start and was held by it until it's cathartic ending.

The simple tale is of a colt who is caught and sold in auction to a poor farmer who entrusts it to his teenage son Albert. They have an immediate connection and Albert names him Joey, raising him to be a fine handsome horse. He even manages to train the thoroughbred into being a plough-horse to save losing him in a bet his father has made with a hated brother-in-law. However it is 1914 and even Albert cannot save his beloved Joey being sold to the Cavalry as a war horse. A young Major has noticed the two of them in the days leading up to the recruitment drive in the village and promises Albert he will have Joey as his horse and will return him by Christmas "when the War's over". Two months later Albert receives news that the Major has been killed in action and, stricken with anxiety for Joey, runs away from home to sign up and find him in the killing grounds of the Western Front. The play then follows the ghastly trials both boy and horse are subjected to over the course of the war to end all wars. The highly emotional story tugs on all possible heartstrings with fate and coincidence sometimes too much at hand. However one goes along with the plot contrivances as the production is so wonderfully involving. Co-directed by Tom Morris and the-always interesting Marianne Elliott the tone never waivers and the clarity of the piece is a hallmark of Elliott's best work. The large company serve the piece well - there are noteworthy performances by Angus Wright as a kindly German officer who saves Joey and another proud stallion Topthorn by using them to pull a German ambulance, Luke Treadaway is an understandably panicky Albert and Thusitha Jayasundera as his fiery but loving mother.
The real stars however are the actors/manipulators who work the life-size puppets of Joey and Topthorn - there should be another word for them as they transcend the name puppet. The horses are worked by three performers - one working the head, one as the chest and front legs, one as the back legs. The metal, wood and canvas frames move sinuously with the movements designed by Toby Sedgwick (who also plays Albert's father) that soon they really do become characters in their own right. Indeed their very stripped-down look helps in your sympathy when you see the horses exposed to the dangers of battle - when one is 'killed' the shell is left on the stage and immediately it connects to images one knows of wasted horses seen in WWI photographs. The design work is truly excellent: Rae Smith (stage), Basil Jones and Adrian Kohler (puppet design for Handspring Puppet Company) and Paule Constable (lighting) deserve all the praise received in the press. Indeed Handspring have also given us swallows, children, crows and a scene-stealing goose! Special mention too for Adrian Sutton's lush musical score and John Tams' evocative folk songs.
The real joy of this production however is the collaboration made between the audience and the performers/production team. The true alchemy of theatre is here, when the leap of imagination asked of the audience is overcome and a real shared experience is created not only between performer and audience member but within the audience itself. The stillness in the audience during the final scenes was palpable, a wonderful feeling. There wasn't a dry eye in the house... even mine, Constant Reader. The explosion of sound during the curtain calls was a welcome relief... and yes that was Stephen Sondheim a few rows in front of me clapping broadly and enthusiastically.

A performance like this evening happens rarely but when it does it is what makes theatre the greatest of the arts.
Just before the lights went down Owen asked where, all those 25 years ago, I had usually sat for "Guys and Dolls" and I pointed out the front-row just off centre. As I've explained before in this blog, that production was the first time I felt that alchemy, when the power of the performers is bounced back to them by the audience's responses and concentration.

There seemed to be quite a few parents with children attending tonight - how wonderful if even just a handful of the young people attending now realise how exciting real theatre can be.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Okay I have calmed down enough now to blog about the pure fabness that was Beverley Knight last night at the Royal Albert Hall.

She was the best I have seen her - and this was my 8th time.
The last time I was a bit disappointed... it was coming to the end of the VOICE tour and maybe even she was a bit tired of singing her "Best of.." however last night she was showcasing songs from her MUSIC CITY SOUL album and seemed absolutely On It. The fact Owen and I were also in the centre of the 2nd row from the stage also added to how good the show was - we got full-force Bev.

She appeared to be channelling an early 70s Tina Turner - long hair swirling, a vibrant short wraparound dress showing off her great fishnetted legs, spikey heels - and didn't stop working the audience or that amazing voice. We were all up for it too... indeed several times she was visibly moved by the rapturous reception she received.

The set list consisted mostly MCS - "Ain't That A Lot of Love", "After You", "No Man's Land", "Queen of Starting Over", "Time Is On My Side", "Back To You", "Saviour" where she recruited us all as her backing singers and it sounded pretty fierce, "Every Time You See Me Smile" and a stomping version of "Black Butta".

Of course Beverley dipped into her back catalogue - a great "Flava Of The Old School" which also incorporated snatches from "And The Beat Goes On" and "One Nation Under A Groove", a deep soul version of "Sista Sista", "Piece Of My Heart", "Made It Back" which she now does stripped down and with a Latin vibe which didn't *quite* work, a thudding "Keep This Fire Burning", an anthemic "Come As You Are" and again had us all as her backing singers on "Shoulda Woulda Coulda".

She sang a magnificent version of "Gold" wringing every ounce of soul from this great song and ended with my all-time Bev favourite "Greatest Day" that had everyone in the house screaming for more. She left the stage in floods of grateful tears.

I'm sorry I made you cry Bev!

There have been constant rumours for a long time now of record company problems and indeed the choice of singles and general promotion of MUSIC CITY SOUL have been dubious.

If anyone from Parlophone was there then I hope it made them realise what a fantastic performer Beverley is and start to give her the backing she deserves.

When she sang in Gold "You're looking at the real thing" I thought damn right. Beverley is the real thing and needs to be given her props as such.

Oh there were enormous signs everywhere about no photography. Indeed the usher told us the same when he showed us to seats.

Hope you like my photographs - for once mine came out good!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

For 27 years the BBC has been doing this... you would think by now they would have worked out a way not to make it toe-curlingly crap.

Terry Wogan is truly a walking - waddling - car crash. I have never understood how he keeps getting the gig. The missed cues... the alzheimer stares as he has no idea what to say leaving so much dead air hanging... the sheer preening awfulness of someone who thinks he is charisma personified. This year his care assistant is the vacuum that is Ferne Cotton, a fine example of the tv presenter WHO! SPEAKS! LIKE! THIS! AND! REACTS! LIKE! A! FEEB! IN! A! HALL! OF! MIRRORS!

There are usually specially-filmed riffs on BBC shows - there was an absolute hilaire one of HOTEL BABYLON being taken over by Sybil Fawlty and other stragglers from 80s sitcoms.. Paul Shane, June Whitfield, Vicki Michele et al.... They cut back to the studio and at least Prunella Scales had the grace to look thoroughly ashamed. The nadir of the evening must have been a NEVER MIND THE BUZZCOCKS special betwixt Radios 1 & 2... jokes about Terry Wogan's recent airing of his basket on tv died the death of eight dogs with a stony-silent audience and he didn't look too happy either. A total dog show. The Sparse Girls comeback single was the official CIN single so they appeared on film from LA miming. Sums it all up really. The BBC were obviously so thrilled with this they didn't even include it in the round-up compilation although they did have them miming STOP. Indeed.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What better way to round off a week of seeing acts whose work I was unfamiliar with than seeing a band whose work has resounded down 30 years?

I am not the biggest card-carrying member of The Sex Pistols fan club but back in the day I bought the singles and album while following their meteoric rise and tawdry demise through the pages of the then-obligatory NME. It was with a growing nervousness that the day of accompany Owen to the 2nd of their latest reunion gigs came closer. Would they walk through it basking in the knowledge of immediate sell-out shows and an acquiescent audience? Would the audience be as drunk and lacking in spacial awareness as has been my experience at some 70s band gigs?

All I can say is Never Mind That Bollocks - they were fantastic!

Owen is getting to know his way round the Brixton Academy so it didn't take long to get from main door to seats about 6 rows back on the aisle in the circle with a good vantage point of the stage and also the purple lights raking the auditorium. The nerves started to give way to genuine excitement as the moment of them appearing got nearer... like, DAMN I was going to be seeing the bloody Sex Pistols!!

The lights went down and the darkened auditorium was suddenly lit from the two large scenery doors being opened in the back of the stage and in a blaze of white light four figures walking downstage... and there they were, a swaggering theatrical entrance fully befitting their legendary status - and despite the half-arsed attempts of the security to get everyone in the circle to remain seated it wasn't long before we were standing singing and cheering them on.

Was there ever a greater front man - outside of Moz - than our Johnny Rotten Lydon? Panto came early this year as he worked the crowd better than any number of old-pro dames or villains, eternally disappointed in us but also saying that seeing us all there made him so happy. His amazing presence meant I couldn't take my eyes off him, a genuine 100% legend.

What surprised me was how great they sounded - Paul Cook kept his drumming fierce and propelled making the songs everyone knew backwards as exciting to hear as the first time while Glen Matlock and Steve Jones kept up a solid wall of guitar noise - even if it took a while to work out which was which! What also surprised me was their virtual anonymity, none of them spoke or were even referred to by John. I guess he has enough personality for them all!

Playing all of NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS and various b-sides and live favourites, they left some great sonic memories none more so than those four classic singles - PRETTY VACANT opened the show and after a while Johnny conducted us in a sing-song to "Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside" before the guitar slides and fierce drumroll hurtled us into HOLIDAYS IN THE SUN - that drum roll was one of the most exciting things EVER!

GOD SAVE THE QUEEN closed the main set against a backdrop of stamps bearing the classic single sleeve - oh the joy of singing NOOOO FUUTURE again and again at the close left me grinning from ear to ear - one of them was for you Steve where e'er you be. The two encores included great versions of EMI and BODIES... and of course, ANARCHY IN THE UK. Possibly the greatest British rock song ever it sounded as vibrant and thrillingly alive in their hands as when they first recorded it.

They were quite simply magnificent and how drab and neutered the British music scene of today looks in comparison.